“Mom, why is there blood when I pee?”
Every mother’s heart skips a beat when she hears it.
No matter how well you think are prepared, when menarche sets in, anxiety kicks in!
It is difficult to fathom that your little girl running around the house in piggy-tails is on her way to become a young woman!
Every mother strives her best to guide her daughter in all possible ways.
Your daughter begins the questionnaire, testing your patience at times!
- Do you have it too?
- Why does it come?
- Do my friends get it too?
- Why do I get cramps? Am I punished by God?
- Does my puppy get it too?
- What about grandma?
- Does it happen to boys too? No? Boys are so lucky!
Best thing to do is to clear your head and have a one-to-one session with her. It is always good to know a little about menstruation, so your answers are ready for your girl’s never-ending questions.
Meaning of menarche
Menarche is the beginning of menstruation cycle. It is a natural physiological process that prepares a girl for fertility.
Generally called first period, it usually occurs between ages 10 to 16.
What happens at menarche?
The female hormones estrogen and progesterone trigger the ovaries to release eggs in anticipation of pregnancy. This egg moves to the uterus through the fallopian tube. If the egg is not fertilized by a sperm, the lining of the uterus breaks down causing menstruation. The menstrual blood flows out of vulva (vaginal opening). Menstruation generally lasts for 3 to 7 days. It is a recurring process, which occurs usually once a month. Periods may be irregular for a few cycles after menarche, usually stabilizes in a year or two.
Menarche symptoms and signals
Menarche generally occurs 2-3 years after the onset of puberty which is characterized by the following symptoms –
- Rapid growth phase – it looks like your girl has grown taller by inches overnight!
- Development of breasts
- Weight gain
- Armpit and pubic hair growth
- Body odor
- Vaginal discharge
- Mood swings and irritability
What is the normal age for menarche?
Studies suggest menarche occurs between the ages of 10 and 16 years in most girls in developed countries. The average age for menarche in India is 12-13 years. It can happen a little early or late depending on various factors. If a girl does not get her first period by 16, it is advisable to consult a health care professional. Remember, every girl is unique, so is her body type.
Factors affecting menarche
When can a girl get her first period? It depends on various factors such as –
- Nutrition – Foods which are high in fats (e.g., meat, cheese, milk products) lead to weight gain which in turn increases the levels of estrogen hormones, resulting in early period. Malnourishment may result in delayed menarche.
- Body mass index (BMI) – Usually girls with higher BMI experience early menarche. Check your BMI here.
- Environmental and socioeconomic factors – Studies suggest menarche is affected by geographical location, ethnicity or race, socioeconomic factors, physical activity, education, and occupation of parents.
- Genetic factor – A girl usually gets her first period around the same age as her mother.
How can you prepare your daughter for menarche/menstruation?
Menarche triggers close level of bonding between a mother and daughter. It is essential for a mother to prepare her daughter mentally for a new, difficult phase of her life. Your daughter would be going through several emotional changes, getting her to trust and treat you as a friend may take time. Patience is the key here. Here is how you can prepare your daughter for the onset of roller-coaster ride –
- Explain how natural the process of menarche is.
- Talking about periods is not distasteful. Let her talk to friends, cousins and share her experience.
- Menstruation is not a sin or a curse. Explain her the age-old belief of a girl or a woman being impure or untouchable during periods is just a hogwash.
- Prepare her to adapt to her body changes and not be ashamed of her growing body. Having a positive body image is utmost important.
- Explain the sexual organs and how they function.
- Teach your daughter about the vaginal opening and the opening to the urethra. You do not bleed and pee through the same opening!
- It is natural for girls of her age to fantasize and crush on movie stars or cute boys in the neighborhood. Instead of reprimanding, tell her it is a period of infatuation which will eventually fade away.
- Your girl maybe cranky, irritable for no apparent reason. Try to reason with her patiently. Who said motherhood is easy?
- Most girls suffer from menstrual cramps, a hot water bag compressed on the abdominal region provides relief. If the pain persists, over-the-counter pain relievers can be consumed. Drink plenty of water and fluids to fight cramps.
- Plan a well-balanced diet rich in proteins, dietary fibers, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
How to maintain menstrual hygiene?
Maintaining personal hygiene is very important during menstruation. Luckily, times have changed, girls these days are much smarter and prepared. Talking about menstruation is no longer considered a taboo. Girls are taught about menarche and menstruation cycle at school. Your baby girl is more equipped than you think!
There are several feminine products available in the market. Some of them are –
- These are the most preferred choice by many women.
- Use good quality pads and dispose them off every 3-4 hours depending on the flow.
- Unchanged sanitary pads may cause infection. Biodegradable sanitary napkins made of natural materials like bamboo, wool or cotton are slowly taking over the feminine hygiene products market.
- If you are using cotton reusable pads, it is essential to clean them thoroughly.
- Tampons are another substitute to sanitary pads; they are small absorbents inserted inside the vagina.
- If your girl is comfortable using them, go ahead!
- It helps girls who are active sports players or swimmers. While tampons are safe to use, there is a rare risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
- Menstrual cups are another good alternative.
- It is a V-shaped cup made of rubber or silicone which stores menstrual blood.
- It is reusable.
- While menstrual cups are generally safe to use, one must follow the directions properly.
- Unlike sanitary pads or tampons, these cups need not be changed frequently.
- It need not be removed for 6-12 hours depending on the flow.
- It needs to be properly cleaned after every use.
- A menstrual cup lasts 5 years or more.
- It certainly is environment friendly.
- Smaller sized cups are available for teens.
- Know more about menstrual cups here.
- Period underwear (both disposable and reusable) is the latest fad in the menstruation products range.
- They are made of absorbent materials which soaks up the blood.
- They are leak proof and do not leave strains.
- Disposable period panties are ideal for travelers.
- They are generally used when you have light flow, ovulation, or vaginal discharge.
Menarche signals the beginning of a woman’s reproductive cycle which ends with menopause. Educate your daughter and get her ready to face menarche head-on! Be period positive, celebrate the joys of womanhood! Do not fall prey to menstrual myths. Boost the self-esteem of your daughter, prepare her to love herself!
“At her first bleeding a woman meets her power.
During her bleeding years she practices it.
At menopause she becomes it.
Traditional Native American saying”
― Lucy H. Pearce, Moon Time: Harness the Ever-Changing Energy of Your Menstrual Cycle